PICTURE: Anomaly London
I don't often say thank you anymore. I don't really have many reasons to. I guess at my age you have stopped giving me the need to say thank you (apart from at Christmas and birthdays and those times we don't talk about, like when I get an unexpected and rather scary gas bill...) because you've sort-of, well, done your bit now; I'm a grown up and I'm out there living in the world alone. Elle Magazine have dedicated their December issue to Feminism. Alongside Anomaly London's Alex Holder, launched a campaign called #mydadthefeminist that seeks to get women to celebrate the male feminists in their lives. by celebrating the men that made us believe we could be anything, our dads. Seeing the campaign made me realise you deserve a few unexpected and potentially overlooked thank you's of your own.
You actually called yourself a Feminist the other day and I couldn't have been more surprised or prouder. I asked you if you'd refer to yourself as a Feminist and you said "Yes I'm a Feminist- unreservedly. As a proselytising libertarian, I believe in freedom, equality and the rights of all men, which includes women". I thought- wow, that's my dad. The Feminist. My hero. (I also looked up what 'proselytising' meant because I had no idea.) I was expecting you to give me some nonsensical reason why you weren't a Feminist (like most other men), that included words like 'archaic' and 'anti-men' but you surprised me. Although you brought me up on Feminist ideals and practises, up until that moment, I hadn't realised that it wasn't just incidental.
It seems obvious to me now that you have always been a raving Feminist dressed in socks and sandals. You could not have been more equal in your treatment and encouragement of my siblings and I. You couldn't have been more insistent that we could all do and be exactly what we wanted. You have always believed we should be able to take leadership positions. You have always believed my sisters and I should earn as much as a man doing the same job. You have always expected we be free from any kind of sexual harassment. You have never allowed us to limit our vision of who we can become. You parented us based on who we were as individuals, not on our genders.
In some way I could claim that Emma Watson stole her now-famous UN #heforshe speech from you, because you have been saying the same thing to me for as long as I can remember. You've always told me to not adhere to stereotypes. As members of the 'Menamist' movement have pointed out, although men and women have biological differences, 99% of all other differences are manufactured by societal stereotypes. For some reason we all insist on putting each other in boxes, categorising and delineating each part of what makes us human. But we don't have to allow those stereotypes to define us. Emma Watson noted, 'If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are--we can all be freer" or as you've always said, "You're not a girl, you're a person".
There is an American study from 2009 that drew the conclusion from various findings, that men are just as invested in dismantling sexist systems as women are and that men with daughters are even more likely to be Feminist. Feminism and fatherhood aren't antithetical; Feminism and men aren't antithetical either. But why are you more vocal than my male peers? I feel fortunate that I don't believe to know any man who doesn't live life in a Feminist mindset regardless of whether they recognise it or not; I know plenty of men who, like you, oppose the 'glass-ceiling', who believe a woman controls her own body, who believe in equal pay for equal work, who stand against violence towards women in all its forms but yet they won't call themselves Feminists. I think it's time they did. We need them to. It's not good enough to live the life of a Feminist but then not call yourself one à la David Cameron. Doing so only boosts the perception that it's a 'dirty' word. As if being a 'Feminist' by virtue of self-identification should be a shield from criticism. It shouldn't be, and it isn't.
Obviously mum's a Feminist, that goes without saying, but I want to thank you for saying you are one too. Thank you for saying your are one because you know no other word that explains how you feel and what you believe. Thank you for recognising that you live your life as a Feminist, have brought up your children as Feminists and see no reason not to therefore say you are one. If the shoe fits, right?! I wish more men would see the simplicity behind 'coming-out'; nothing changes when a man says he is a Feminist except the fight for equality becomes a tiny bit easier - for us all. When it comes to the issue of gender inequality, men and women are to blame, which means both men and women are the solution. The world needs more men who have the courage and the strength to start standing beside women and not against them. We live in the world together. The only way to change it, is together.
So Dad, thank you for standing beside me. Thank you for praising my ability and intelligence rather than my looks. Thank you for never measuring my success in anything other than personal happiness and fulfilment. Thank you for supporting me, no-matter what. Thank you for expecting me to have a career and not a family. Thank you for teaching me to love myself. Thank you for teaching me to speak for myself. Thank-you for making me believe I can do or be anything. Thank you for being such a strong role model. Thank you for being #mydadthefeminist.
PICTURE: Me and my old man circa 1988
N.B. Elle magazine have not asked me to write about their campaign. I chose to because it's something I wanted to be a part of. You too can be part of Elle Magazine's campaign by tweeting a picture of you and your dad, the Feminist, with the #mydadthefeminist hashtag directly to@ELLEUK.